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Consumer Confidential: Airline safety, car rental merger, newspapers sinking

April 26, 2010 | 10:25 am

Here's your mopingly Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Of all the things that need reforming, airline safety shouldn't be one of them. Yet our friends at the Federal Aviation Administration are calling for carriers to crack down on distracted pilots. The FAA cited the recent case of a pair of Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew their destination by about 150 miles because they were apparently busy with their laptops while in the cockpit. "Every aviation professional needs to take the issue of distractions in the cockpit seriously," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. The fact that he even has to say it suggests this is a bigger problem than many travelers might realize.

--Speaking of travel, say hello to less competition in the rental-car market. Hertz Global Holdings says it's buying rival Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group for about $1.2 billion. Hertz says the combined company will account for about a quarter of the market, compared with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which dominates about half of the market for car rentals. Gosh, I wonder what that will mean for prices.

--So how are things in the newspaper business? Thanks for asking. The average daily circulation for U.S. newspapers fell 8.7% for the six months ended March 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. That's the bad news. The good news is that this isn't as pitiful as the 10.6% drop in the previous half-year period. The trend remains clear: People are turning to the Internet for their news and info, and they expect to find such things offered for free. Luckily, there are plenty of blogs to fill the void ....

-- David Lazarus